Swedish-British Astra Zeneca reported total revenues of 10.8 billion dollars, corresponding to approximately 110 billion kroner, for the second quarter of the year. It was 2 percent higher than the preliminary forecast, according to a compilation from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The operating profit for the core business amounted to SEK 34.4 billion, also a couple of percent better than expected. The profit per share, again for the core business, of SEK 17.60 in turn exceeded the analysts’ forecast by 9 percent. “We had a very strong second quarter with growth across the board,” says Astra Zeneca CEO Pascal Soriot to Di TV. He highlights among other things, the quarterly growth for the oncology business area, i.e. treatments for cancer, of 18 percent in local currency. Astra Zeneca raised the revenue forecast for the full year in connection with the report release. Now an increase of a “low twenties” is expected from the previous “high tens”, corresponding to around 16-19 percent. All business areas contribute to the expected increase in growth, but above all the company’s various covid-19 medicines and especially the antibody combination Evusheld, according to Pascal Soriot. “Evusheld is designed to protect people with a weakened immune system. It can be people who have undergone an organ transplant or suffer from blood cancer. They can take three, four doses of vaccine without it producing any effect. Evusheld gives them protection,” he says of the drug, which is manufactured at the Swedish production facility in Södertälje. However, the profit forecast remains for 2022 unchanged. Astra Zeneca reiterates that profit growth is expected to be in the “medium to high” twenties. “It’s because we are increasing our investments in R&D (research and development, editor’s note)”, says Pascal Soriot and emphasizes that the company has a “strong R&D pipeline”. “Our ambition is to grow with low double-digit numbers until 2025. After 2025, we want to continue growing, which is why we continue to invest in R&D.”The increased spread of the coronavirus during the quarter had a negative impact on the company’s oncology operations. has been particularly noticeable in China, at least in the regions that have been closed, for example Shanghai,” says Pascal Soriot. As more and more people fall ill with the coronavirus, there have been casualties in the hospitals, which are often already understaffed, he explains. It has therefore taken longer to diagnose patients and start treatment. “This is very sad,” says Pascal Soriot and adds that the company sees “a slow but sure recovery”.Although he expects that the number of infections will decrease in the future, Pascal Soriot is clear that the coronavirus will not disappear “This disease has not been shown to be seasonal. Unfortunately, I think we have to assume that covid-19 is here to stay. It is likely that people will need booster doses, but it is unclear how often,” he says. Astra Zeneca’s CEO also believes in a new flu season this winter after a break in the past two years during the corona pandemic. “I think you should consider getting vaccinated against the flu before winter,” says Pascal Soriot. The world’s stock markets have fallen sharply during the first half of 2022. Lower valuations in turn create acquisition opportunities for Astra Zeneca, says CEO Pascal Soriot. “We continue to be active and look at the opportunities that arise in our areas of expertise. That is where we put our power,” he continues, listing the areas of oncology, cardiovascular, respiratory and rare diseases. The stock lost 3 percent on the Stockholm Stock Exchange after the report was released, but has since recovered a little. However, it mainly has to do with the market’s ambivalence around owning defensive or more cyclical companies, rather than Astra Zeneca’s operational development being a disappointment, according to Handelsbanken’s industry analyst Mattias Häggblom. I am not surprised that the stock is trading down, it has been a trend for large pharmaceutical companies this reporting season, despite beating expectations,” he says.A question mark before the future is that it was mainly Astra Zeneca’s older products that delivered better revenue than expected in the second quarter, Mattias Häggblom continues. It is not where the market wants to see positive deviations,” he says and mentions the diabetes drug Farxiga as well as Soliris, Crestor and Nexium as examples of that. Astra Zeneca also announced that the existing board member Michel Demaré will replace the Swede Leif Johansson in the position of chairman. “It signals that you want to continue on the same path,” says Mattias Häggblom. In the interview with Di TV, Astra Zeneca CEO Pascal Soriot heaps praise on Leif Johansson and his work in the company. “I wish him all the best. We’ve really been a fantastic team during the time we’ve worked together,” he says. Leif Johansson announced earlier this year that he will leave the company’s board after the 2023 annual general meeting.
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